Posts Tagged ‘blogging’

I Had a Dream …

Tuesday, July 3rd, 2012

Through the nervous 90’s, and on 99 not out … then the opportunity arrived … a slower ball … driven back past the bowler for a single … a maiden test century … and then, sadly, I woke up … Why was I dreaming about that very English game of cricket?  Ah yes, I went to sleep last night thinking about what to write in my one hundredth blog post. I quickly discounted – with a shiver at the thought – that this was an indication that I should explain the rules of cricket and how it is played. No, it was because this journey of writing a blog has been like a cricket innings.

At the outset I thought that it would be tricky – a bit like facing the new ball. As each idea to write about comes to mind, they are a bit like balls being bowled – some can be used and ‘posted’ to the outfield, whilst others should be left well alone. Sometimes there might be a dozen in a row to be left alone, at other times 2 or 3 good ones come along at once. And the weather conditions – or my outlook – can impact on the effectiveness of the posts.

And in the same way as when a cricketer makes a century, and the TV coverage reviews their 100 runs, I will review my experience of 100 blog posts.

When I set out, I had very little understanding of blogs and websites. I didn’t know whether to write a blog, but I was given one piece of crucial advice which made the decision for me. I was told that websites will rise up search rankings if their content is constantly being updated, and that a blog was one way of doing this. The other primary way was for me to update my own website, but my ineptitude in this area left me with just the one option.

I also read parts (I say ‘parts’ because I don’t think I can claim to have read a full book in at least 20 years) of the book “Naked Conversations” from which I really warmed to the idea of building on-line rapport with potential customers – by demonstrating where my expertise lies and helping others understand what makes me tick.

Those were my two reasons – ranking and rapport – which were countered with a large dollop of trepidation. What would I write about? Did I actually know anything of any value to others? Where would I find the time? Was I really comfortable opening myself up, warts and all?

However, as with many things we concern ourselves with in life, none of these issues materialised. And more importantly, there have been benefits, huge benefits. It has been personally fulfilling, a tremendously positive and enjoyable experience and has generated a small amount of client driven business from people I would never have otherwise met. So what have been my main learning points?

  • Returning to my dream I referred to at the start of this post … at the outset I found myself reviewing the day as my head hit the hay (I  haven’t intentionally attempted poetry yet!). I found myself asking  “What has happened today that links to learning and development or my business?” I found it a tremendously satisfying way to review and reflect on a set period of time.  It generated some really good stories. The next day I would write my post. And I have discovered that I just love spending a couple of hours writing, reflecting, thinking, questioning, writing, learning, considering, writing … and finally publishing!
  • By checking the ‘search strings’ I can see which particular blog posts are being found by people. This has helped me to understand where my expertise is perhaps welcomed and subject areas that are not as readily available on the internet as others (John Heron’s wonderful ‘6 Category Intervention Analysis’ and ‘Dimensions of Facilitator Style’ are two such subject areas). From this, I can give additional focus to areas which are of interest to readers.
  • By checking the statistics, every now and then I notice a website that has been paying a close interest in mine. This is usually because they have published one of my articles – sometimes for good reasons – and it is great to see my company logo in some e-magazine in some far off country – and sometimes as an error (I once used a Steps album cover as my photo, and I now have an unintentional presence on Steps lyrics website!)
  • There are very few down sides. The only one that springs to mind is the amount of spam comments I get – about 150 a day. The majority are deranged, illegal or obscene, but a few are misguided – like the glasses company that linked to my post describing how to create a Vision! On a different tack, I do also remember a rather lengthy discussion with my wife as to whether I should publish a blog about OFSTED in case it was libellous. I published.
  • I have learned that I can use one blog post on various media in addition to my website – for example FacebookLinkedin and Twitter. I know I am connected to different people through all the different media, and so this facility enables me to contact as broad an audience as possible. My areas for future development here are to learn how (if possible) to get the comments generated via one form of media to populate the other forms automatically, and to develop  y use of other media.
  • I was also approached by Glasstap asking if they could publish my old blogs as articles (akin to a new film being released on DVD, I suppose) which has given me exposure to another market very relevant to my business.
  • And the final jewel in the crown – new business. After wondering many times whether the laudable principles described in “Naked Conversations” would work (build on-line rapport, show your expertise, never overtly sell a product or service) an email arrived out of the blue, saying “ … and having looked at your website and blog, I am interested in setting up a meeting with you. We have 4 senior executives who would benefit from coaching in Leadership skills amongst other things. Could you give me a ring when you are able please?” As I read it, I knew I was experiencing a significant moment on my blogging journey, in a similar way to 100 blog post  being an important point …

This reviewing of my ‘maiden century’ also comes along at an opportune time as professional colleagues have been discussing the pros and cons, and whys and wherefores of blogging.

I have no idea whether my experiences or enjoyment matches other people’s – each person has their own unique reasons for blogging. However, one of the ideas that I have seen and heard being discussed is having other people write blogs for you, and either being quite open about this, or, as one person has suggested, “… simply send to your clients as if it was your own work”.

I can understand why some people choose to have other people writing their blogs – better understanding of the internet, use of key words, reducing workload to work on other things – but it’s not for me. In my previous post I outlined my core foundations – how am I demonstrating realness, or being genuine if I pass off someone else’s work as mine? It certainly wouldn’t build that rapport I am seeking to achieve.

And I may miss out on business opportunities, but more importantly to me, I would miss out on my fun, my enjoyment, my sense of achievement. For me, using others to write my blog is the institutionalising of something that is expressive and perhaps rough round the edges – akin to choosing Paul Weller rather than The Jam, listening to Radio 1 over Radio Caroline, shopping at Waitrose as opposed to the Farmer’s Market and passing by the local coffee shop to savour a Starbucks.

A few weeks ago, a colleague said to me, “Every time I read your blog, I can hear you saying it”. Perfect! That pleased me no end, and if and when I stop writing my blog, if it had a headstone, that would be the best epitaph.

Blogging might not be for you, but if you are thinking about it, go for it. Just write! I’m so pleased I did. I’m sure you will enjoy it.

And hopefully my thoughts here might have taken a bit of shine off the new ball for when you come out to the wicket!


That’s one small step for most people; one giant leap for Paul

Friday, July 16th, 2010

I think I have now got to grips with a blog – or at least the basics of a blog. Unless you tell me differently?  I have also received some great feedback about the website.

What is even better is that two people have said that the site doesn’t do quite what they would like it to. One person said they really liked it and wanted to leave some comments both on it and about it, but couldn’t, and another person said that they wanted to ask for a bit of help / advice but thought that the contact section felt a bit too formal.  To me, the common denominator in those comments was that it needed to be more interactive.

Having had my thinking hat on, and having spent many hours tinkering (and I mean ‘many’, due to my lack of computer skills!), I have hatched a cunning plan … so cunning – Blackadder might say – you could put a tail on it and call it a fox!  A plan that will – I think – go a good way to addressing that feedback. In fact, I’m really excited about what I have come up with!

The excitement is mainly due my ‘solution’ also enabling me to work on something else I have been thinking about for some time. Lots of the websites that I frequent or have looked at have forums for their members – CIPD, TainingZone, CMI, Glasstap, etc. These are great, however, you also have to pay to access them and / or they are very specialist.

Many of the first line managers or aspiring managers who I coach or train do not have access to any such forums. From the discussions we’ve had, they would find such a facility of great use. I know from delivering learning events that often the most beneficial, valuable and thought provoking aspects are when  we look at case studies  to which there are no obvious right or wrong answers. Because that’s what happens in reality.

But I don’t have the capability or resources to set up anything on the scale of those previously mentioned sites. But I would like to offer a facility to those who have attended courses (and those who come across the facility and find it of use) whereby I can continue to offer them support.

 People also tell me that they would sometimes like the chance to make contact away from a workplace computer, and it isn’t lost on me just how many people use Facebook – and how versatile it has become.

So, how can I deal with all that? Well, I have created a ‘Breathe Personal and Organisational Development Facebook Page’. This will enable people to leave comments on the website and to ask questions in a more informal way. It will also give others the opportunity to contribute to posts that people have left. People will be able to pick up ideas from reading questions and comments that others raise. Almost a virtual action learning set. And, of course, it’s all free!

I hope people will use it to pose a question, get a bit of advice or perhaps a resource they have mislaid. I’ll not have the answers to all the points raised, but in such cases there’s a good chance I’ll know someone who will.  It will be interesting to see how well it works or what level of take up there is. I’ve had great fun learning as I have put it all in place, so if it’s of use to one person, it will have been worth the effort!

And, dear reader, you can help me. As you may be aware, it is possible to create a ‘Username’ for a ‘Facebook Page’, however, a page has to have at least 25 ‘fans’ for this to happen. So if you would be happy to be a ‘fan’, it would be great if you could support this little venture by going the Breathe Facebook Page (via this link) and pressing the ‘like’ button – assuming you do like the idea – and that will enable me to give it a proper name!

And if you can see any other improvements I could make, please do let me know …

But – unfortunately – I haven’t solved the whole problem as I have now found out that one of the people who sent me the feedback isn’t on Facebook! – So let’s get back to that drawing board …


A learning Journey

Saturday, May 29th, 2010

Hi, and welcome to our blog!

When I say ‘our’ blog, I mean me (Paul) and you (the reader) as opposed to mine and Peta’s – I don’t think she will be posting too much, but we’ll have to wait and see.

This is all new to me – blogging – so it’s very exciting, mixed with a large dollop of trepidation. Actually, as I look at my metaphorical plate, the dollop of trepidation is significantly larger than the dollop of excitement, but hey-ho, let’s see what happens.

Your feedback will be very welcome, as will any suggestions for improvements. If there are 175,000 new blogs being created every day (as Paul Thewlis suggests), I’ll need to learn all the ropes.

So, you should see developments as the year goes on – I’m using this as a sort of live learning journey or event, and I’ll be interested to see, in a year’s timer (or perhaps sooner), how much I cringe (or otherwise) at these early posts!